Has the Christian Science Monitor changed for the better?

As the Christian Science Monitor enters its fourth year as a “Web-first” operation, it seems an appropriate time to see where the news product now stands.

After about 100 years of publication, the Monitor indeed has changed. Once considered by mo

st media experts to be an elite print daily newspaper, it’s a bit unclear whether it still is a newspaper, or rather a weekly print magazine with daily online trappings. And can such a bifurcated product, with a niche all its own, still be considered “elite,” when it has no real products with which it might be compared?

One of the Monitor’s traditional strong points was its international reporting, which it managed with a healthy number of news bureaus strategically placed around the globe, and augmented with a variety of free-lancers and stringers. While the Monitor still does occasional substantial international reporting (for example by Peter Ford, its bureau chief in Beijing), for the most part CSM seems to have shuttered many international bureaus and to have ceded cutting-edge, timely international journalism to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

When Monitor editors say readers have “context for the news in advance of the news,” (CSM story) what this often means is that CSM now synthesizes much of its news from elsewhere, rather than conducting its own first-hand reporting as it often did in past decades.

Whether such journalism is better fit for today’s news and infotainment consumers may be open to interpretation. What does seem clear, though, is that the current Monitor is a far cry from its earlier self in delivery, format and, in many cases, original international reporting.